Ok, I finally worked on my idea to get some oil trays under my screened bottom boards. I went over and visited with my mentor a while today and we talked about a lot of things. He doesn't run oil trays but he has in the past and I believe he will again. He encouraged me to try my idea so here's what I came up with this evening...

My idea is to use the cement blocks that I use as hive stands and the bottom side of the bottom boards as a "slot" to insert an oil tray into. Naturally the tray needs to be "bee-proof". My idea is to make the top of the tray to fit closely to the bottom board rather than to seal the entire area that the tray rests in. The seal needs to be tight at each end and on the sides. Yelp, I'm re-inventing the wheel.

I had stressed over finding a tray that would work and wasn't that too expensive. Joe, a beek over in Mississippi, had suggested that I check a dollar store. Well, I'm hardheaded and waited until I was at Wallyworld to look (we're about 20 miles from it)...they only had a couple of scratched up ones that I thought might work but I passed on them. I've looked at the heavier trays, the thin disposable trays, etc.,.

I was actually going to paint some woodenware yesterday evening but the oil tray project kept bugging me so I decided to tinker with modding the bottom boards instead. I got some good measurements from the bottom boards and headed to one of the local dollar stores.....SHAZAM!!!!!!!!!!....NICE BAKING TRAYS!!!!! Nice, unscratched, heavy-duty, 17.3"x11.2"x1" inside dimensions with nice handles/lips extending out about 1" on each end, and $5 each at our local "Family Dollar Store"!!!....thanks for the suggestion Joe! I don't know why I didn't look there earlier!!!!

Here are the major parts of the mod...complicated, eh? (Oops, I left out the two little pieces of quarter-round "stops" that will keep the tray from sliding too far forward and the two 3/16"x3/4" wooden runners that will be glued to the bottom of the tray...I guess it's even more complicated than I thought. ) The two long pieces of wood are some 1-1/8" pieces that I ripped from a piece of 1x6 treated pine...this will raise the bottom surface of the bottom board up 3/4".

This is the bottom after adding the shims to the bottom rails and nailing on the two stops...a bead of glue and three nails to each rail and a little glue and a couple of nails for each stop. The "stops" allow the tray to slide in completely beneath the bottom board with about 1/4" of the bottom board covering the end of the tray...this hopefully will help keep rain from entering the tray. I'm hoping, also, that the rolled lips of the tray will help divert any rainwater that might run on the lower surface of the bottom board. Another rain concern I have is water coming in through the lower entrance...I have the hive slightly tilted but a blowing rain could enter and run off into the tray...later I may saw most of the porches off. The stops also correctly position the tray so that the entire screened area is above the tray. The length of these trays are just right for Rossman's 8-frame screened bottom boards...while the width of the tray is a touch wider than the screen....the trays will probably work with other bottom boards, too. Nice handles to pull the trays out with, too.

A simple shot of the tray pulled out a bit.

This is an "end" shot. There is a gap that is a touch less than 1/4" between the tray and the bottom board. With my little experimental tray I made from some metal roofing I know I don't want to give the bees a chance to get into the tray. I didn't lose but 7-8 bees in that home-bent tray but that's too many for me if it can be avoided. Rather than fill in this gap I'm going to put some runners on the bottom of the trays and thus raise the tray up higher on the cement block bringing the lip of the tray up close to the bottom board.

I haven't finished this part yet, but this is what I'm intending to do to fix the gap between the tray and bottom board. That is a 3/16"x3/4" piece of molding...roughly 15" long that is laying on the tray. I'm going to epoxy one on each side of the bottom of the trays. This will lift the tray up higher on the cement blocks and close the gap between the tray and the bottom board. I believe it will be a snug fit and I may or may not have to sand a bit of wood off. It should definitely make it close enough to keep any bees out. I've cut all the runners to length and sanded each end to a sloped edge to make it slide easily on the cement blocks. Just gotta sand a little on the bottom of the trays and epoxy the runners on. When I set my hive stands I placed the blocks 9 inches apart (if I remember correctly!). This distance between blocks should work out well for the trays to slide on...the trays are very rigid and need no support beneath the center of them.

I figure I can use this setup for mite counts and even to simply close the bottom off during really cold weather (we do get chilly sometimes down here in Dixie. Smiley ). Anyhow, that's where I'm at with the oil trays. I've still got painting to do but I think these will work good, but the proof will be in the pudding. Now to find some cheap mineral oil...too many possums, raccoons, coyotes, etc,, around here for vegetable oil.